There are plenty armchair general managers on social media who crunched the numbers and didn’t really see any value in re-signing Tyson Barrie, but the perspective from inside the dressing room was much, much different.
Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse, the guys who know better than anyone else what the Edmonton Oilers need and what Barrie brings, pushed hard to get him back.
“They were all reaching out and asking if I was staying,” said Barrie, after signing a three-year deal for $4.5 million a year Wednesday. “It’s great when you have guys like that who have your back and want you around. It makes you want to be around.
“Connor called me this morning, all the boys texted me. It’s great to be back. I think we have a good thing going, a good group of guys and the sky’s the limit.”
If there is a poster boy for the winds of change surrounding free agents and the Oilers, it’s Barrie.
He’s had plenty of options, especially this summer, but he picked Edmonton — twice — as the place to make his hockey home.
“I had fun playing hockey again last year and that was important for me,” said the just-turned-30-year-old, who inked the contract four days after the birth of his son. “We like Edmonton. It’s a good fit. It’s a joy to come to the rink. It’s a good culture.
“It was a bit of a no-brainer to come back to a place where I had success. And I believe we’re a good team and we’re not that far off. I want to be a part of the team that wins there.”
Barrie came here last season on a one-year deal looking to bolster his market value after a mediocre campaign in Toronto. He did exactly that. He was the first Oilers player to lead NHL defencemen in scoring since Paul Coffey and fit in seamlessly on the best power play in the league.
“It doesn’t always pan out, but it did last year, even in a shortened season coming to a new team,” he said. “This year, it’s only going to get better.”
There is room for more. Barrie actually started slowly (just two points in eight games) before settling in and putting up 46 points in his final 48 games.
“I was trying to figure out where I fit in and what my role was. Once I did, I excelled. This year, there are no questions coming in. I’m comfortable with the guys and the coaches and the situation. I should be able to pick it up right where I left off.”
It’s a good price at a good term, a deal that helps the Oilers in the here and now without handcuffing them down the road. Could he have waited and found more money or a longer deal? Probably.
“Who knows what was out there,” he said. “You might have left something on the table, you might not. You never know. But I’m happy with the decision.
“You go with what you know and I believe in this group. We have the best player in the world and a guy who, on any given night, is also the best player in the world. That’s a great crew to build around.”
He adds defenceman Cody Ceci, a former teammate in Toronto who signed a four-year deal for $3.5 million a year, is going to be a big addition to that crew.
“I love Cec,” said Barrie. “He’s good in the room and he’s a great player. He’s a guy you put out in important situations to shut the other team down. He’s big, he’s physical, he’s a great penalty killer. He’s going to be great and the boys are going to love him.”
Ceci said stability and an Oilers team that seems poised to do something special are the two biggest reasons he’s coming here.
“I believe in the team and the players they have there,” said the six-foot-two, 210-pounder. “And I’ve been bouncing around on one-year contracts the last couple of years and was looking to get a little bit of term out of this deal.”
He’s a former first-round pick (15th overall in 2012) who had 64 points in 79 games in his last year of junior. He settled into more of a defensive role on an Ottawa team where Erik Karlsson got all the premium ice, but says the offensive instinct is still there.
“I think I was forced to change up a little bit and it really developed my game defensively. Now, I’m just trying to add it back in. I had decent success with it last year (17 points in 53 games with Pittsburgh) and now I’m going to try and do the same for Edmonton.”
In terms of filling the big hole left by Adam Larsson, Ceci knows he has a lot of work ahead of him.
“He’s a great player and those are going to be big shoes to fill but when I saw him leave, I saw that as an opportunity for me, the door kind of opened. I’m going to do the best I can to fill his shoes.”
On Twitter: @Rob_Tychkowski